Google, Garmin, SpaceX win The Economist's Innovation Awards

Google, Garmin and great big space planes are among the winners of The Economist's Innovation Awards 2012.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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Google, Garmin and great big space planes are among the winners of The Economist's Innovation Awards 2012. From improving the battery life of our laptops to making water safe to drink in the world's poorest regions, these are the people making a difference to our world.

The Economist Awards recognise a number of people that we as gadget fans have cause to be grateful to. One of the most important parts of any gadget is the battery, and scientist Yet Ming Chiang is recognised for his work in discovering nanoscale metal phosphate cathodes, paving the way for a new generation of lithium-ion batteries.

Marc Benioff is lauded for reinventing the software industry with Salesforce, which lets companies log on to a website to use software and services rather than buying and installing it.

And Gary Burrell and Dr Min Kao win the Consumer Products category. Combine 'Gary' and 'Min' and what do you get? That's right: Garmin. The pair are recognised for their work on bringing GPS into the consumer world with sat-navs and other mapping kit to help us find our way.

On the subject of maps, Jack Dangermond and John Hanke scoop the prize for their pioneering use of geospatial data in software applications.

From mapping the Earth to escaping it, the No Boundaries category is won by Elon Musk, the man behind PayPal and Tesla Motors, for his championing of commercial spaceflight with SpaceX.

And the company recognised for its innovations? Google! "Though sometimes not the first to offer a particular product," the Big G "has proved skillful at innovating and improving upon existing ideas and applications" and "is especially adept at acquiring young companies and rapidly expanding their products and services".

The Awards also laud people who deserve recognition from not just gadget fans, but from everyone.

Napoleone Ferrara claims the prize in the Bioscience category for his work in cloning therapies. And Dr Greg Allgood and Dr Philip Souter are worthy winners for their work on making water safe to drink. Dr Souter developed a powder that when mixed with water removes dirt, cysts and pollutants, and kills bacteria and viruses. His aptly named colleague Dr Allgood persuaded Procter & Gamble to distribute the water purification tablets on a non-profit basis.

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